Jack Shepheard, Economics Graduate, has been working as an intern superstar in food service for the meat-snacking brand Ember snacks. Jack has always had an interest in all things food and drink and now he is turning his passion into a career. He shares with Young Foodies Grads his story so far in the F&B start-up world.
Why I decided I wanted to work in the start-up space over big business
It’s easy to get caught up in the attraction of big graduate schemes because they are everywhere, offer big salaries and are household names. Additionally, doing an Economics degree you are surrounded by people who want to work for big corporations in finance, accounting, tax etc. You are often seen as different if you don’t want to pursue that avenue, I myself applied for a great deal of them. I would say it was only really once I graduated when I discovered I wanted to work in the start-up space,and once I researched and networked further, I was convinced the F&B sector was for me.
Working in the start-up space over big business certainly gives you a much wider perspective of all the different business roles – you really understand how your position impacts the company and can see the changes and developments directly. For a graduate, working in a start-up plunges you right into the mix and gives you real meaningful tasks with no micro-management. There are very few industries disrupting the space as much as food and beverage challenger brands. The big appeal of start-ups is the flexibility and willingness to take risks to achieve great things, for example, the growth of B Corp as a way to make a pledge to do great things for people, planet and profits.
The application and interview process: challenges and successes
As with any job search it will take time and you will face rejection. I have now actually learnt to embrace rejection. This means choosing to see it as a form of motivation and a learning experience. Failure should be seen as preparation for success, if you don’t fail you don’t learn and fight to be better.
Most start-up positions are similar in their application process. I did a variety of application tasks including showcasing skills and manipulating data on Excel. The more interviews and applications I did, the better I got. I learnt from my mistakes and more about the roles and industry I was applying for. I took every opportunity to ask questions and find out about challenges, successes and what makes people tick in the industry –interviews are a chance to learn about the industry and network.I was fixed on wanting to do operations but, after several rejections, I was advised that my personality and enthusiasm might fit better with a sales role. However, in a start-up environment, you will most likely get asked to help out in other areas, and for me this was a massive appeal.
Learning the value of networking opportunities
I spent a lot of time post-graduation on LinkedIn and have truly discovered what a powerful tool networking is, this built up my confidence as I did not expect to have as much success as I have by networking on LinkedIn. This, in part, is testament to the industry and how friendly everyone is.By building up a network you get a better idea of the trends and the movers and shakers in the industry – you see who they are interacting with and get to hear their advice. I got multiple founders to review my CV and got real advice from those in the industry who I aspired to be like.
Young Foodies also provides a great platform for building your network and they will do all they can to help. Even just talking with like-minded graduates is a great experience and you can learn a great deal.
What I would recommend to future graduates looking for a role in the world of food and drink
Before this I had no real idea of the career direction I wanted, it is definitely okay not to know. If you have just left University, enjoy a brief period of time relaxing and finding out what you want to do and what direction you want to take. Ultimately any role you take on you will learn a great deal, even more so in a start-up.
Research, research, research. Research into the industry. Research into the company. Research into the role, especially for internships- as recruiters want to know you know the industry rather than having direct experience (although any relevant experience always helps!). It stands out if you have done deep research, this goes back to the power of networking, if you already know someone who works for the company or for a similar brand that gives you a great leg up on those who review the job specification.
Understand yourself and your strengths. Most people, especially founders, don’t have time to be responding to everyone who messages them – what makes you different and worth taking notice of?
Get stuck in and be positive, you will learn so much. Ultimately, believe in yourself and be open to opportunities. I have done so much more than I ever imagined in such a short amount of time and have been challenged and rewarded everyday – talking with people about our biltong is a great way to get out and share my enthusiasm. Power to F&B start-ups!